Let me start by acknowledging that what I’m about to say about the debacle called Deflategate might incite an angry mob of New Englanders to string me up beside Mike Felger in front of Faneuil Hall. For the #FreeTomBrady crowd, you might want to stop reading now.
First of all, I am a Pats fan, but throughout this whole ludicrous ordeal, I’ve been trying to see it with a modicum of objectivity. Admittedly, the punishment levied on Tom Brady and the Patriots by Commissioner Roger Goodell was draconian and, relative to the lesser punishments handed down to players like Ray Rice, a miscarriage of justice.
It certainly seems like this decision was less about the air pressure in some footballs during a blowout game, and more about Goodell puffing out his chest and punishing the Patriots for their intransigence and refusal to cooperate with the investigation.
In this sense, in the overall fairness of the decision, Tom Brady, the Patriots and fans have a legitimate gripe. They have been bent over the table by the NFL, an organization of dubious character and integrity.
Then again, similar to the NFL, the Patriots also have a public relations problem. If Tom Brady and the team had approached the controversy with a simple mea culpa when it arose in January, they would not be in the bind they’re in right now.
Instead, they approached it with arrogance and disdain and helped create this juggernaut. The truth of matter is that Tom Brady lied in his initial press conference when he said that he had no knowledge of the deflated footballs. How can anyone reasonably draw any other conclusion?
In addition, by not allowing Ted Wells to interview locker room Jim McNally again, they obstructed the investigation. When Tom Brady refused to turn over, not his cell phone, but the text messages in question, he raised a number of red flags. No one was looking for nude selfies of Gisele or anything that could be considered an invasion of Brady’s privacy. They simply wanted the transcripts, which Wells claims they were willing to accept on Brady’s word.
For these transgressions alone, Brady and the Patriots deserved to be punished—certainly not as excessively as they were, but they broke the rules and they were caught.
Worse yet has been the patent denial of New England fans and the self-righteous indignation. Granted, the schadenfreude displayed the rest of the country, the glee the nation outside of our region has taken in watching the Patriots fall from grace, has been obnoxious and annoying. The urge to push back against this is understandable and, perhaps, justified.
Yet to treat Brady and the team like political prisoners, to establish Go Fund Me accounts so fans can bail out millionaires and pay the $1 million fine is, quite frankly, distasteful and obscene. The result is that fans of the most storied sports’ run in history come out looking like willfully-blinded cry babies.
Michael Brown was a tragedy. Freddy Gray was a tragedy. The American education system is a tragedy. Tom Brady and the Patriots getting caught cheating then railroaded when punishments were doled out certainly is not.
So you can bring out the nooses and try me for regional treason, but I hope you realize that the punishment would not fit the crime.